Ooey-gooey! Weird! Grooosss! Whoa! These were just some of the expressions heard at the second annual San Diego Science Festival, organized by UC San Diego. The weeklong event began on Saturday, March 20, and culminated with an Expo day at Petco Park on March 27. The festival brought out thousands of students of every age wanting to learn more about all areas of science and engineering.
The week featured a variety of events each day that addressed a range of topics from kayaking with the San Diego Natural History Museum and “The Science of Exercise and Weight Loss” with Dr. Jason Karp to “The Illusion of Psychic Powers” presented by UC San Diego to “Pollution & Solutions: A Changing Climate” with the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Each activity or lecture was geared toward a specific audience based on age and level of understanding to ensure everyone’s scientific curiosity would be quenched.
“We want to get kids excited about science and create a synergy between the public and scientists, students and teachers,” said Jeremy Babendure, Ph.D., festival educational outreach director and assistant professor of pharmacy at UC San Diego.
The week’s events led up to a final Expo featuring hundreds of vendors at booths and displays around the entire first level of Petco Park in downtown San Diego. Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, also joined the festivities by hosting a booth dedicated to educating the public about the importance and many uses of kelp.
Kari Agostinelli with the education department at Birch Aquarium led a group of enthusiastic volunteers who engaged with guests throughout the day. The Birch team educated visitors about local kelp forests and the marine life that call them home. Aquarium staff reinforced the need to protect these vital habitats, which is a strong message Birch Aquarium at Scripps conveys with its exhibit about marine protected areas.
The aquarium crew also wowed the crowd with slimy fresh kelp and a hands-on experiment where kids could see how ground kelp mixed with water emulsifies and is used to thicken many household products such as toothpaste and chocolate milk. With so many families attending, it was also a unique opportunity for Birch Aquarium to publicize upcoming summer camps, with many parents eager to learn more about aquarium activities.
Other non-profits, corporations, and universities also hosted booths at the Expo offering hands-on activities, demonstrations, experiments, and take-home crafts. Organizers hope as the crowds grow larger each year so will the interest of kids into the wonders of science and engineering. Judging from the wide eyes and huge grins, the excited kids will be back again next year.
-- Caitlin Denham